Latte art at the very famous Gundam Cafe
Japan is home to many restaurants. There is a place for every palate. Diners and dive-bars are tucked into crammed corners of the ever-busy metropolitan areas. Sometimes the best sushi shops don’t have any advertising and are accessed through a sliding door in an alleyway. But one unique style of restaurant that delights foreigners and locals alike are the eclectic cafés.
Probably one of the most well known types of cafés in Japan are the theme cafés. These cafés are usually crammed with apparel and props from movies, TV shows, or video games, and if it’s a weekend… with customers.
And when I say crammed, I mean really crammed. The Gundam Café in Akihabara usually has an hour-long wait line stretching out the front door. Kamen Rider the Diner in Ikebukuro requires reservations days in advance.
As far as the atmosphere, if you have ever been to Western restaurant franchises like Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe (there are also multiple Hard Rock Cafes in Japan) then the feeling inside is the same: walls covered in props from the shows, autographs by the actors, and screens constantly rotating clips from the shows or games.
But what differentiates the Japanese themed cafés is the food. The food also revolves around the theme. There are foods that might appear in the show/game or the characters’ faces might be on your beverage! If you are a fan visiting Japan then these cafés are the best way to round off a trip.
Promotional cafés are in every way the same as theme cafés: they have unique foods and unique goods. In many ways promotional cafés are a sub-category of theme cafés, but how they differ is the atmosphere and the limited time the cafés are open.
Promotional cafés usually spring up when a new movie or anime is released, like Despicable Me and Fate series themed cafés, or when an exhibition opens, like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure exhibition in Sendai and Marvel’s Exhibition in Roppongi. It might be apt to say that these cafés are a unique form of advertising.
Promotional cafés start with an empty room, add chairs and tables, and decorate it with still shots and life size cuts of the characters. As a fan of these movies and comics I like to go to these occasionally, but I usually walk away feeling underwhelmed. While the food looks and taste pretty good, the atmosphere compared to full-time theme cafés feel sub-par.
If you want to go to a promotional café the best way is to follow the movie or comic companies on social media. And before you go, make sure to bring some extra yen for all the exclusive goods sold only at the cafés; like mugs, bags, and even shoes!
For those not interested in anime, comics, movies, vampires, or ninja (yes, there is a ninja café, but it’s just so stealthy that I haven’t found it yet) there are other cafés where you can unwind and have fun. Animal cafés are becoming popular with locals and tourist and provide a fun way to pass time. The types of animals vary from café to café with: cats, dogs, and owls. These places can be very small yet feel spacious due to the lack of merch, this allows for the animals to spread out and doesn’t give the “café” feel that the previous two do.
How animal cafés differ from the other cafés is that usually no food is provided but drinks do come with admission. Compared to the other cafés these are more spread out areas that allow the animals to wander, except for the owls, which are tied to their pedestals.
Most charge by the hour. During that time you can pet, feed, and just hang out with the animals. At Dog Heart from Aquamarine you can even rent a dog to go for a walk!
All these cafés are great places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. When entering into one of these interesting cafés you are transported to a different place where you can indulge in your interests like anime, games, and animals. It’s a public yet private atmosphere.
Many of these cafés tend to be on the high side of the price range for food and drinks but if you keep in mind that you are paying for the experience rather than the food it makes the trip worth it!
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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